UK committee warns of ocean acidification threat

Credit: Alan Smillie/

Credit: Alan Smillie/

The UK’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has published its Sustainable Seas report, which has warned that knowledge surrounding ocean acidification and its impacts is too limited.

Human-induced carbon dioxide emissions are causing ocean acidification, warming, and deoxygenation, the EAC wrote. “This will have major implications for fisheries and biodiversity around the UK and some of the UK overseas territories which are reliant on coral reefs for their livelihoods and resilience to extreme weather events.”

The committee, which heard evidence from a range of individuals from industry, academia, and beyond, said there was limited knowledge of how these dangers are affecting the biodiversity of UK waters.

It added it was disappointed that the monitoring of ocean acidification is no longer being funded by the UK government.

“In line with the Science Advisory Council’s advice to [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] on future ocean acidification monitoring, the existing UK time series for ocean acidification should be maintained on a long-term basis and additional UK sites for ocean acidification monitoring should be established to cover other important habitats,” it suggested.

The UK government must also use its expertise internationally to help overseas territories and commonwealth countries understand and assess — including through monitoring — their vulnerabilities to ocean acidification, warming, and deoxygenation, particularly with regards to the impact to biodiversity and fisheries, it said.

The EAC also said meeting the UN “Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement” was critical for the future health of the oceans.

“A two-degree temperature rise will significantly harm biodiversity and fish stocks and destroy 99% of global coral reefs. We welcome the government’s updated actions and milestones for the Clean Growth Strategy and its request for advice on meeting the Paris Agreement.”

The government must not delay in implementing advice on how to meet the ambitions of the Paris Agreement, whether through legislative means or otherwise, it added. “It should set out its plans in the first half of 2019. This should include setting a net-zero target by 2050 at the very latest.”

Neil Ramsden, Undercurrent News, 18 January 2019. Article.

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